Weekly family rail, with money tips for new parents, a review of "Lenobia's Vow" and more.

Tip of the Week

New parents don't always prepare for the expenses associated with having a baby. A survey by Redbook Magazine and Visa found that less than 50 percent of expectant parents create a new budget that includes baby expenses. And while 76 percent of parents-to-be felt financially prepared for a baby, after the tyke arrived, 41 percent of new parents said they weren't as prepared as they had thought. Taking steps like clipping coupons and buying secondhand clothes can help new parents save cash, but other important financial considerations - such as protecting their credit scores - require advanced planning. Here are some tips to help expectant and new parents to look after their finances:

Before the baby arrives

- Review your health insurance and what it covers. The full costs of prenatal care, maternal care and delivery are not always covered by all insurance plans. As soon as you know you are pregnant - or when you make the decision to conceive - contact your insurer and ask for a detailed explanation of benefits. The Redbook survey found that unexpected hospital costs - things that couples thought their insurance would cover - cost one in four new parents more than $2,000 from their own pockets. Knowing what's covered, and what's not, can help you determine how much cash to set aside for hospital expenses.

- Review your credit. One way or another, you will be spending money - a lot of it - when the new baby arrives. Whether you need to tap credit to buy nursery furniture or need a good credit score so you can get a better auto policy that costs less, it's important to understand this aspect of your financial well-being. Enrolling in a product such as freecreditscore.com can help you understand your credit score and status, which can help you make informed decisions about how you will use credit during this potentially financially challenging time.

- Create a spending plan. Your overall spending plan should not only include a budget for day-to-day costs like diapers, but a long-term plan for larger expenses such as nursery furniture, day care, and college savings. It's important to estimate not only how much you'll spend but when you'll spend it, too. For example, your short-term budget may include the cost of a crib - an item you will need immediately - but you may be able to postpone other furniture purchases like a dresser or changing table.

When you're new parents

- Buy wisely and frugally. From clipping coupons to buying off-brand names or purchasing from second-hand stores, it's possible to equip your baby with everything he or she needs at a fraction of the cost of buying brand new, brand-name retail products. It's normal to feel pressured to buy new, top-of-the-line luxury items for your baby, but used items and off-brand products can be just as good. Check out online ratings for a used item's durability before you buy it, and see what other consumers have to say about cheaper brands of diapers, baby wipes and clothing.

- Continue to keep an eye on your credit; it's a key element of your financial health. Good credit directly affects your ability to buy that bigger house you need as Junior starts to grow, get an auto loan for a minivan, or secure a new job in some cases. 

- Brandpoint

Family Movie Night

“Struck by Lightning”

Rated: PG-13

Length: 90 minutes

Synopsis: After being struck and killed by lightning, a young man recounts the way he blackmailed his fellow classmates into contributing to his literary magazine.

Violence/scary rating: 3

Sexual-content rating: 3.5

Profanity rating: 3

Drugs/alcohol rating: 3.5

Family Time rating: 3.5. This is definitely a teen movie, probably better handled by older teens. 

(Ratings are judged on a five-point scale, with 5 being “bad for kids” and 1 being “fine for kids.”)

Book Report

“Lenobia's Vow: A House of Night Novella,” by  P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Ages: 12-17

Pages: 160

Synopsis: Evreux, France, 1788: Before she is Zoey’s favorite professor and the House of Night’s powerful horse mistress … Lenobia is just a normal 16-year-old girl – with enough problems to last a lifetime. As the illegitimate daughter of a powerful baron, she has never quite belonged, and instead has to watch her spoiled half-sister, Cecile, get anything she wants. As if that’s not enough, her remarkable beauty draws unwanted attention wherever she goes. For once, she would like to just fit in. But when fate intervenes, Lenobia suddenly finds herself surrounded by other girls, on a ship bound for New Orleans, where they will be married off to the city’s richest Frenchmen. And they’re not alone…. An evil bishop who is skilled in Dark magic makes the same journey. His appetite for lovely young women makes him dangerous – most of all to Lenobia, who caught his eye back in France. So she remains hidden, making secret visits to the ship’s stables, where a handsome young man and his beautiful Percheron horses soon capture her attention. Will they make it to land before the bishop discovers her true identity and a powerful evil breaks loose? And will Lenobia follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? Find out more about one of your favorite professors in Lenobia's Vow, the next heart-thumping House of Night Novella by PC Cast and Kristin Cast. - St. Martin's Press

Did You Know

Poison Prevention Week (March 17-23) is an ideal opportunity to take stock of the potential hazards that can be found in a home – many of which can’t be seen or sensed but can be deadly. First Alert reminds families to be aware that poisoning can take many forms, including carbon monoxide and radon poisoning. 

GateHouse News Service